How a Calgary author tapped into her farm roots to pen a children’s book about her pet pig George
From growing up on a farm to travelling the world with her grandson throughout her airline career, local children’s book author Linda Collier has many stories to tell—including one about her unique childhood pet.
George: The Bravest Little Pig in the Barnyard is Collier’s most recent book about a pig’s adventures on a farm, and it’s filled with illustrations waiting to be coloured in.
Collier grew up with a love for writing and storytelling, but she didn’t start publishing children’s books until her grandson inspired the idea.
“I started writing little books about our trips together and he loved them. And so then I just started writing more and more. I couldn’t stop,” Collier says.
A childhood bond is formed
Her latest book was inspired by true events that took place while she was a child growing up on a farm.
“George was my childhood pet. I was 10 years old when George was born,” she says.
Sometimes baby farm animals wouldn’t always survive due to certain circumstances, but Collier was determined to keep George around.
“I ended up bringing George into the house and taking care of him by getting up through the night and warming up milk for him. I wrapped him up in gauze bandages, I bathed him,” she says, adding she treated him like a baby.
“I even put baby oil on him.”
As the pair grew up together and bonded, they became inseparable.
“He would literally follow the dog down the driveway from when I would be getting off the school bus. The two of them would be sitting there waiting for me. It was quite remarkable how smart he was.”
A mischievous pig
Eventually, George began to outgrow his living situation and Collier’s family had to send him back to stay in the pig pen—but George didn’t make it easy.
“He did everything he could to get out of the pig pen,” Collier says, adding the crafty pig faked a sore leg and dug his way out of fences.
“When I would get home from school, I would take him out of the pig pen for a while and take him for a walk like I would with the dog.”
As time went on, an interesting turn of events took place. George turned out to be Georgette, a fact Collier left out of the book, much to her grandson’s astonishment.
“‘Grandma, you left the part out about George being a girl,’” he said to Collier, but she decided she didn’t want to make it confusing for children reading the book.
A love that flows both ways
Collier was George’s caretaker as she grew up, but George also changed Collier’s life.
“I was raised in foster care from the time that I was five years old. The farm that I went to live on was my final home,” she says.
Collier says the farm and her family helped her during her transition into her new home, and that the animals saved her life.
“When you lose your mom at five years old, and you get pushed around from home to home, and then you find something that just loves you, and you love it back,” Collier says.
“That’s what George was for me. She was a very important factor in my life at a very difficult time.”
After leaving at 18, Collier would return to visit George and the farm from time to time. George went on to have babies and lived a good life.
“She never ever forgot who I was. So I carried the story in my heart all these years.”
Jammies from Grammies
On top of being a children’s author, Collier is also the founder of Jammies from Grammies, a local non-profit organization that donates pyjamas to children in need.
All of the proceeds from every book Collier has sold have gone back into the organization that is so near and dear to her heart.
A friend of Collier’s once said “you have no idea how many children go to school in the same clothes they sleep in,” and that broke her heart—she knew she wanted to help in some way.
“The first year I did it, I only got 40 pairs of pyjamas,” Collier says, adding when she called a few places to donate them, they told her it wouldn’t make a difference.
That’s when Wood’s Homes stepped up to take what she had.
“And I remember feeling the sense that somebody cares about what I’m doing. So, they took their 40 pairs. And the next year it was 80. And the following year, it was 200.”
It’s more than a book
“I do this as much for me as I do for the kids because I get such joy from it,” Collier adds.
She plans on continuing to write more children’s books with proceeds going to her organization. Her next book is set to come out by Mother’s Day in 2023.
George: The Bravest Little Pig in the Barnyard is available for purchase on Amazon. Buyers will get a creative colouring book along with a heartwarming story with the knowledge that all of the proceeds will go towards keeping children warm throughout the night.
“It’s more than a book. It’s for the kids,” Collier says.